Tuesday, July 13, 2021


Mary Astor
WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.  

1. What are you currently reading? The Break by Marian Keyes. Amy and Hugh have been married for 17 years. Amy has been happy, but when a pair of deaths hit Hugh hard (first his dad, then a boyhood friend), she realizes Hugh is not. Still, she was gobsmacked when he tells her he wants six months off, "a break" from marriage. He wants to travel, to put himself first for a change, to get more out of life. 

Will he come back? What if he falls in love with someone else? What if, after six months, she changes and he no longer wants this different woman? How will she explain this to their daughters? Who will change the lightbulbs and empty the garbage?

So far this book is about the large and small ways Amy handles Hugh's midlife crisis. I'm enjoying it (Keyes always manages to wrest a smile from me, even in the sad bits) but I hope soon Amy stops just reacting and takes a deeper look at her life.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s by Joseph Egan. Mary Astor was a major movie star who, on the rebound, married the wrong man. A doctor, he had no interest in her career or most of her friends. They didn't realize their incompatibility until they had a daughter. As was the custom within the moneyed set in the 30s, they began having affairs. They frequently talked of separation and divorce. They were no longer lovers or friends but they were not yet enemies.

Then he found her diary. YIKES!

In purple ink, Mary wrote candidly about how her new lover, an acclaimed playwright, satisfied her in bed ... implying her husband didn't. Compared to the playwright, he was uninterested and uninteresting. She also wrote about the doctor's drinking and how it exacerbated his temper. In short, she was not at all flattering. OK, she was brutal.

The doctor was hurt and angry. He retaliated by battling Mary for custody of their little girl and leaked diary pages (juicy stuff about her lover, not unflattering stuff about himself) to the press, hoping to blackmail Mary into submission.

The case dominated the front pages. False rumors about the rest of Mary's diary ran rampant (she purportedly kept a "box score" of every Hollywood stud she screwed) and studio heads actually pressured her to give up her daughter, just to make the case go away and stop embarrassing the movie industry.

Mary was tough, a mother with definite ideas of how her daughter should be raised, and she wasn't going anywhere. No matter how much pressure was brought to bear, she was going to see this through. She was also a good actress. No matter how upset she was, she remained unflappable in the courtroom by channeling the character she was playing. Regardless of the many different ways her husband's attorney called her a whore, Mary kept cool, under ladylike hats, with her hands folded in her lap.
I liked Mary. I also admired two other actresses of the day -- Ruth Chatterton and Florence Eldridge -- who risked the ire of the studio bosses (and therefore their careers) by sitting with Mary in court each day. GIRL POWER!

I highly recommend this true story.
3. What will read next? I don't know.